by Jacade Long, Public Information Officer, Rockdale County Fire Department
National Fire Prevention Week (NFPA) is the longest running public health observance program, according to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Library Information Center. President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Week on October 4-10, 1925, beginning a tradition of the President of the United States signing a proclamation recognizing the occasion.
It is observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9 falls, in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began October 8, 1871, and did most of its damage October 9. The horrific conflagration killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres.
NFPA also commemorates the Peshtigo Fire, which occurred on October 8, 1871, roaring through northeast Wisconsin, burning down 16 towns, killing 1,152 people, and scorching 1.2 million acres before it ended. Historical accounts of the fire say that the blaze began when several railroad workers clearing land for tracks unintentionally started a brush fire. Before long, the fast-moving flames were whipping through the area ‘like a tornado,’ some survivors said. It was the small town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, that suffered the worst damage. Within an hour, the entire town had been destroyed. Because of these events President Woodrow Wilson signed the first National Fire Prevention Day.
In 2017, NFPA emphasized that in a fire, every second counts. It’s important that you (and anyone else living with you) have two ways out and an emergency plan in case of a fire.
Jacade M. Long is the Fire Safety Educator and Public Information Officer with the Rockdale County Fire Rescue. He is also the Georgia Public Safety Educators Association 2nd Vice President.